Festive couscous salad with spiced roasted orange and sweet potato, almonds, feta and spinach

Roasting oranges

So I was trying to come up with a festive seasonal salad with a slightly Mediterranean/Middle Eastern spin on it, and I thought to myself “is roasting oranges a thing?” There were indeed a few Google hits and based on what I found I decided to do some experimenting. I first tried just roasting half an orange with peel in thin slices with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt in the oven, and they came out slightly burned around the edges but I thought they had a nice flavour.

Roasting and eating oranges WITH peel however may not be for everyone as there’s a distinct bitterness to the peel. And also since my local supermarket didn’t haver organic oranges I didn’t want to risk it. I scrubbed my test orange vigorously but I don’t know if that’s enough to get rid of any pesticides (though I figured half an orange wouldn’t kill me, I didn’t want to do it for the whole dish).

So when I made the salad later in the evening I decided to peel the oranges and then chop them up. I roasted the orange pieces in the oven with a sweet potato that was diced quite finely for about 30 minutes, in olive oil, cinnamon, cardamom and smoked paprika, and I think it turned out rather nice.

Ingredients

Below are the quantities and ingredients I used today, though I may play around with it next time, for instance adding more orange and sweet potato and a bit less couscous (though I did find the balance overall pretty OK). I also didn’t really taste the Dijon in the dressing so I’d probably add some more of that as the salad itself doesn’t have any onions or anything else to add sharpness.

Serves 5-6

Salad:

  • 1.5 cups couscous, dry (by which I mean this was the measure when dry, please cook couscous before putting in salad… )
  • 3 oranges, peeled and chopped into around 18-20 pieces per orange
  • 1 medium to large sweet potato, around 300 grams, diced
  • 200 grams baby spinach
  • 200 grams feta cheese
  • 60 grams almonds, chopped
  • 50 grams dried cranberries
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • cinnamon, cardamom and smoked paprika to toss the oranges and sweet potato in

For the dressing (approx amounts, and as I mentioned I would add more mustard next time):

  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard or other sharp mustard

A note on the dressing: I find salad recipes online usually have way too much dressing, but I suspect that’s because people generally drizzle it over instead of mixing it thoroughly in with the salad like I do. And sure, if I was a proper food blogger/more concerned with the appearance of the dish I may have arranged the ingredients in a more pleasing way and then drizzled dressing over it – so if that’s what you want to do you should probably make more.

Method

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius (that’s 392 Fahrenheit for you Yanks ;-). Peel and chop oranges and dice sweet potato (leave the peel on but obviously clean properly), toss in a large bowl and coat with 1-2 tbsp olive oil, cinnamon, cardamom and smoked paprika to taste.

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Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and toss potatoes and oranges onto it. Roast in middle of oven for about half an hour, until orange pieces start to turn dark around the edges.

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I used these spices obviously to complement the dish but also the Christmas/winter season. I think it came out well and the spices were not overwhelming. Plus it smelled really nice when it was roasting.

Cook couscous for 5 minutes or according to package instructions.

Roughly chop baby spinach and almonds, put in large bowl (I reused the bowl I had the oranges and potatoes in, without cleaning it, so there was some remnant of oil and spices).

Add dried cranberries and crumbled feta cheese to bowl.

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Once couscous is done, drain and let sit for a few minutes to cool slightly before tossing it in the bowl and mixing with the other ingredients.

At this point I also mixed in most of the dressing (which you just make by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl..).

Mix in sweet potatoes and oranges and rest of dressing. If you’re doing it like I did, make sure to mix everything thoroughly so the dressing spreads out and you don’t have clumps of one ingredient.

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Verdict

I thought it was nice and balanced. The oranges maintained some juiciness and I felt like the flavour kind of deepened through roasting and adding the spices. The lemony dressing and the feta cheese brings some freshness and in the case of the cheese saltiness, the spinach adds crunch, as do the almonds, and the almonds and cranberries add to the wintery/Christmassy flavour profile.

Nutrition per serving (based on 5 servings)

Calories: 581
Fat: 20gr
Carbs: 81 gr
Dietary fiber: 13 gr
Protein: 20 gr

It also has a bunch of vitamins A and C and calcium, because citrus, nuts, cheese, etc..

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